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Old 09-26-2020, 06:50 PM   #1
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Too many miles?

Looking at a 2001 Bluebird All American 8.3L Cummins/Allison combo rear engine pusher.

Bus is through third-party reseller who got it directly from a school district doing all the monthly and quarterly maintenance. I went on test drive, visually inspected everywhere. Bus has zero rust, everything is clean, immaculate, no dents. Interior/exterior great. Tires are even fantastic. They gave me all the pre-inspection reports. Also, in the State of WA this dealer is required to have the WA Highway Patrol also pass an inspection -- which they did. Everything screams fantastic and I know the Cummins manufacturer gives the engine life 350k miles. Has anyone ever seen a well care for bus go beyond? I'm struggling with the $10k price tag at 255k miles. Now common sense tells me (just like a car) the higher the miles, the less time you have and possibly more problems. It was test driven up a hill, on the freeway and reached 65 no problem. Did the freeway hill at 55mph. Engine purred like a baby. Everything works.

My question is: Should I be running away from what appears to be a very well cared for bus that "looks" brand new, has been inspected by patrol and will go through yet another release inspection by dealer due to the miles? (They already know I don't like the price vs miles but if I can handle them on price, should I buy those miles?) It doesn't sit well with me. But if there's a positive opinion here....

My purpose will be to live out of this for 3yrs minimum and then maybe even up to 5. I will park and move around from time to time. Take on road trips and vacations. But do have a goal to travel for 12-18 months around the US at some point. I don't want to spend money converting just to burn up the bus and be done fast. Or, maybe just figure to do a new engine when it's time?

This will be first bus.

I'm not in a hurry and can wait for something. I know 8.3L's are hard to come by and come at a higher price tag. Challenge is inventory with COVID is really slow and not sure when one would come back around in this immaculate and pristine condition.
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Old 09-26-2020, 07:14 PM   #2
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Not the most qualified to answer, but many say the mileage on school buses is not reliable as they swap dashboards often.

I am just fascinated that people are buying old school buses for $10k or even more, particularly when they sell for $3k at auction, which is about doubled from what they would sell for a year ago. When you can buy a nice but older motorhome for $15k easy.

Like this one, Cummins diesel pusher 32ft with 108k miles for $14k...Sure it will need some work, but..

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Old 09-26-2020, 07:23 PM   #3
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Sounds like a great bus overall but you are correct that the price is far too high although that's about how much we'd expect a flipper in the PNW to be asking. As for the "is it worth the risk" question, I wouldn't let higher miles worry me too much on that engine. Yes you are closer to the inevitability of needing an engine overhaul but fortunately an in-frame overhaul is very much in the cards with that engine's wet-sleeve design. The model year puts that era of diesel in the very top of most of our wish list and they're only going to get rarer as time marches on. If you're willing to put the money into it's care and overall maintenance I see no reason it won't last the duration of your proposed lifecycle for it
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Old 09-26-2020, 07:31 PM   #4
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I have sent OP some info in a PM, but I will say this about the 8.3... There are a few maintenance things to bear in mind, but it is a solid engine in my limited experience with them. I agree that the price is a bit much, but it has been inspected by Washington State Patrol, and from what I gather, the seller is willing to have it reinspected and possibly retitled as an RV.

I recently drove a '99 Blue Bird with the 8.3 / MD3060 from IA to the NorthEast for its new owners. It was a bit of a debacle, but it wasn't really the bus's fault. It had 258k at time of pickup, with no way to easily determine the engine hours.

In a nutshell, the engine developed a serious misfire after about 1,100 miles, and required moderate repairs. The technician informed me at the the time that the 8.3 usually needs the camshaft replaced at around 9,000 hours of run-time. In my research, I have found no other whammies in regard to this engine, other than it requires engine oil with a high zinc content to prolong component life. Otherwise, that 9,000 hrs for the camshaft may wind up being 6,000 hrs.

I'm not sure of the differential ratio in the bus I drove, but it cruised nicely at 70 mph turning about 2,000 rpm -- the 8.3 is rated safe to 2750, most owners say they wouldn't push it much past 2200. They seem to get their best fuel economy in the 1500-1800 range. I observed approximately 7.5 towing a car at 70 mph with a cylinder going dead from valvetrain issues.

After repair, the owners elected to finish the trip themselves due to the $6,000 repair bill (couldn't blame them). They had approximately 500 miles to get it home, and from what they told me, they were getting about 11 mpg on that leg of the trip, albeit at lower speeds, as they were getting used to it and were likely on roads with lower speed limits to boot.

I've said this in another thread, and I'll say it here, with a bus bought practically sight unseen on a mechanic's blessing, if that was the worst it could dish out on the maiden voyage home, I'm impressed. We had two breakdowns, which could have been one if the shops I found had been a bit more accommodating. I also am a bit skeptical that the fluids were serviced prior to pickup, despite the new owners having paid for it. So the 8.3 / MD3060 combo is on my list of recommendations and/or potential purchases.

There are tons of these things in RVs and I rarely hear anything bad about them. As I've said, the camshaft wear at 9,000 hrs runtime seems to be the only Achilles Heel, something that I don't feel the average RV'er or skoolie builder should worry much about unless you're traveling over 1,000 miles per week and idling the engine a bunch.

However, I would ask for an hour reading, from the ECM, if necessary. Most tachometers have an hour meter built in, and some REs have a remote start console in the engine bay that can sometimes have an hour meter as well. If it's getting close to 9,000 hrs, I would use that as a means of driving the price down, because that's a good indicator that this mechanical gremlin is coming...

Remember folks, it's not just the miles, it's the hours. 9,000 hrs at 30 mph average would be 270,000 miles, within reason for stop-and-go route use with some highway miles. 9,000 hrs at 60 mph average would be 540,000 miles. Now THAT'S high miles.
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Old 09-27-2020, 01:19 PM   #5
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Cheese, I'm chatting with someone who is bidding on some Holy Grails with the 8.3 and the MD3060. The engines are all between 280K and 320K but they don't state the hours. Is it likely a school system would dump these because they still have the original camshafts?
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Old 09-27-2020, 01:37 PM   #6
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I paid $4k last august for mine that has around 220k or so.



10k is a lot even if it is an 8.3 pusher, imo.
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Old 09-27-2020, 02:58 PM   #7
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Cheese, I'm chatting with someone who is bidding on some Holy Grails with the 8.3 and the MD3060. The engines are all between 280K and 320K but they don't state the hours. Is it likely a school system would dump these because they still have the original camshafts?
I don't really think that's the reason. It's reason enough, but not THE reason. Buses are retired for one of three reasons - age, mileage, or repairs for which the cost will not be recovered before it would have been retired for age or mileage anyway. (ex. Head gasket leaking on an 8-year-old bus that was due for retirement anyway)

Here are the numbers on this. The tech I spoke to said 9,000 hours was life expectancy for the 8.3 camshaft. At an average route bus rate of 6 miles traveled per hour on the engine, that would be about 54,000 miles. The one I have some experience with had this failure at 260k, working out to about 29 miles traveled per hour on the assumed 9,000 hours on the engine. (Tech's assessment, not mine)

29 mph at 2 hrs per run is about 58 miles. Add 20 minutes of idle time for loading/unloading (more for a wheelchair lift). Twice a day, 5 days a week, 4 weeks a month, 9 months a year, comes to 10,440 miles per year, and an estimated 900 hrs. Times 10 years comes to 104,400 miles, and an estimated 9,000 hrs.

However, consider that the bus I transported might have had this repaired before. Now we're at 208,800 miles and 18,000 hrs on the block before round 3, at 20 years of age. I'm told the bus was auctioned off at 15 years (est 255,000 miles) and wasn't driven much before the owner downsized and resold. 15 years would be 154,600 miles and 13,500 hrs on the block, 4,500ish hours on a replacement camshaft. I'm not buying that, so I suspect that this bus likely had a higher average miles traveled per hour on the engine before the previous owner.

The first private owner likely did more idling than driving, and more frequent dry starts can cut down service life as well. 255k at an average of 60 miles for every hour would put the original camshaft at 4,250 hrs. 40 would put it at 6,375 hrs, and 35 would put it at 7,285 hrs.

The reason I say that, is that I don't see a school district spending $3,000 - $6,000 a pop to replace camshafts. This was a Utah bus originally, and I haven't seen such beasts in my area to my knowledge, so I can only ballpark guess statistics for buses in the Midwest / PNW.

But the 54k example applies to the average route in my area (14 miles per run, twice per day, 5 days a week, 4 weeks a month, 9 months a year, comes to 5,040 miles per year. Times ten years is 50,400 miles.

At an average of 6 mph, 90 minutes per run, twice per day, 30 minutes of idle time between three or four school stops, 5 days a week, 4 weeks a month, 9 months a year, comes to 630 hrs per year. Times ten years is 6300 hrs.

So, presumably, in 98% of examples, an 8.3 Cummins bus beung auctioned off should still have at least 2500, perhaps 3000 hrs to go until the camshaft would be a possibility of failure. But there's that 1% that are low hour and barely broken in, and the 1% that are getting close to needing attention. Which is why the hour reading is so important.

OP, sorry to hijack your thread, but this is all pertinent information I feel anyone looking at an 8.3 powerplant should know, and I think it definitely applies to the one you are looking at. I've driven Washington state, and there's a good chance this bus is low hours, making it worth a bit more. No such thing as a short, low-speed trip in a lot of that state.
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Old 09-27-2020, 03:11 PM   #8
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the 255k doesnt bother me, the 10k price does..



the 8.3 is a wet sleeve engine.. if that were a 5k bus and the engine developed an issue you could put 5-8k into an inframe rebuild and have essentially a near-like-new engine.. but for 10k if the engine is already "used-up" then it would suck to have a failure..



on the other hand it may have been well taken care of.. or even rebuilt once already and go forever... if there is any way to get the service history that could tell a lot..
or a computer read-out where you can see the hour-meter if the dash doesnt have one
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Old 09-27-2020, 03:14 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by BeNimble View Post
Not the most qualified to answer, but many say the mileage on school buses is not reliable as they swap dashboards often.

I am just fascinated that people are buying old school buses for $10k or even more, particularly when they sell for $3k at auction, which is about doubled from what they would sell for a year ago. When you can buy a nice but older motorhome for $15k easy.

Like this one, Cummins diesel pusher 32ft with 108k miles for $14k...Sure it will need some work, but..


until this year a motorhome like that would be under 10k.. I really shouldve bought those 2 motorhomes that were in my storage unit abandoned last year.. they sold for double $$ what they were asking last year when they sold in may this year..



once covid is over and people figure how much effort is involved in maintaining, storing and operating a motorhome I have a feeling they will get real cheap again
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Old 09-27-2020, 04:30 PM   #10
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It is so irritating to help somebody out on their bus purchase and then find out that they're a flipper. I'd like to say the joke's on him because they're going to prove to be badly rusted (they're Utah buses), but the joke will be on whoever buys them, unfortunately.
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Old 09-27-2020, 04:59 PM   #11
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It is so irritating to help somebody out on their bus purchase and then find out that they're a flipper. I'd like to say the joke's on him because they're going to prove to be badly rusted (they're Utah buses), but the joke will be on whoever buys them, unfortunately.
Ok, what'd I miss? Who here is a flipper?
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Old 09-27-2020, 05:52 PM   #12
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Ok, what'd I miss? Who here is a flipper?
I think this is referring to the OP's seller being a flipper but I didn't see definitively that they were a participant here although that's a possibility.
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Old 09-27-2020, 06:03 PM   #13
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I can think of two reasons $10,000 might be a fair price for this bus, those being low hours, or if the camshaft was recently replaced at the expense of the seller, which pretty much means you're paying five grand for the bus and five grand for the repairs.

As for the motorhome post, no offense, but I wouldn't recommend a motorhome to my worst enemy, as most need the roof repaired or replaced at 10 to 15 years. Very few of them last more than 15-20 years without major roof repair or replacement, which usually comes with interior renovation as well, due to water damage. A 30-footer can cost uowards of 7-12k to replace the roof. I am currently in this boat, so I know what I am talking about.
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Old 09-27-2020, 06:10 PM   #14
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Ok, what'd I miss? Who here is a flipper?
No, nobody here. The flipper was a person on reddit.
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Old 09-27-2020, 06:34 PM   #15
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I can think of two reasons $10,000 might be a fair price for this bus, those being low hours, or if the camshaft was recently replaced at the expense of the seller, which pretty much means you're paying five grand for the bus and five grand for the repairs.

As for the motorhome post, no offense, but I wouldn't recommend a motorhome to my worst enemy, as most need the roof repaired or replaced at 10 to 15 years. Very few of them last more than 15-20 years without major roof repair or replacement, which usually comes with interior renovation as well, due to water damage. A 30-footer can cost uowards of 7-12k to replace the roof. I am currently in this boat, so I know what I am talking about.

true that.. it could be the engine recently underwent an in frame and is fresh N ready to roll!!
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Old 09-27-2020, 08:03 PM   #16
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I'm not gonna dispute Cheese Wagon's math on the hours and miles, but I'll just say that my (former) WV bus is showing ~215K miles and ~10K+ hours - both by the dash (which most of us know are common replacement items) as well as the ECU (well, reasonably close, anyway). As such, I'm going to assume the dash has never been replaced, or if it was, the hours and miles were set to match.
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Old 09-27-2020, 08:28 PM   #17
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I'm not gonna dispute Cheese Wagon's math on the hours and miles, but I'll just say that my (former) WV bus is showing ~215K miles and ~10K+ hours - both by the dash (which most of us know are common replacement items) as well as the ECU (well, reasonably close, anyway). As such, I'm going to assume the dash has never been replaced, or if it was, the hours and miles were set to match.
Remember, this 9,000-hour camshaft issue is an 8.3-specific thing. If your bus isn't an 8.3, hours are not quite as much of a concern with other setups. Which is to say that they are still a consideration, but not quite as critical.

It's also not known if your bus has had an engine / trans replacement prior to your ownership. Not likely, but still a consideration. A bus' hours vs miles is going to be as individual as the person converting it, because no two routes are alike, which is why you rarely see any two with the same ballpark hours and miles.
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Old 09-27-2020, 08:50 PM   #18
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Mine's a 7.3 (T444E) and while that's true, I posted my readings for the sake of giving some idea of an hours-to-miles ratio. Of course every route is different but for school buses mine seems to fall within an average.


In my case, I don't think the engine or trans has ever been replaced - the clutch had at least once. I did get the full service and maintenance records, which I could peruse to see if such work had ever been done, but I suspect not and don't remember seeing it when I went through the records the first time (quick go-through).
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Old 09-27-2020, 10:42 PM   #19
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Wow, where did you find yours for $4k?
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Old 09-27-2020, 11:07 PM   #20
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Wow, where did you find yours for $4k?

Found it on marketplace in Pueblo, CO last summer. Seller was a nonprofit nature center that used it for after school programs.



It is/was a VERY nice bus. It had factory AC, interior luggage racks, full understorage and 315 hp ISC with 6th unlocked from the factory (most ISCs in school buses are rated for 275). It was originally sold new to Fremont County in Wyoming.



I did get a decent deal on it since it had some body damage. The back cap was smashed in from one of their drivers backing into a stone building As is also the case with many pushers there was damage on the passenger side luggage bays as well from someone turning too short. Other issues included a nonfunctioning odometer and worn steer tires.



The director mentioned that it wouldn't pass a state safety inspection due to the state of the back cap. Otherwise Rocky Mountain Bus Sales probably would've bought it back and stuck it on their lot with a 15k asking price.
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